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Exploring the Art and Illustrations of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

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My favorite plane in all of Magic has to be Innistrad. I started playing Magic back in the fall of 2010, during the Scars of Mirrodin block. My first year of learning Magic was tricky. Not only was Scars of Mirrodin a hard set to understand in terms of mechanics, it was also a hard set to grasp from an art and lore perspective. Having no prior knowledge of the Mirrans or Phyrexians, I had a tough time connecting with the Scars block, even though I was greatly enjoying the gameplay and collectability of Magic. My relationship with Magic changed entirely with the release of Innistrad.

Innistrad was a marvel of a set. I was immediately enthralled by its horror motif. Its use of gruesome and chilling imagery, combined with the intricate gameplay involving the graveyard and transform cards made it unlike any Magic set I'd seen before. I vividly remember drafting Innistrad and Dark Ascension during winter break at a little game store down in Cape May, New Jersey. Cape May, if you don't know, is widely known as one of the most haunted towns in New Jersey, and it's especially recognizable for its Victorian architecture. Playing Innistrad way back then in the dead of winter made the horror set that much more memorable for me.

Flash forward a full decade later to Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. While the original Innistrad based its art off of classic monsters and horror films, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt's art direction has a much different approach. After the death of Avacyn and the imprisonment of Emrakul in the moon, the humans of Innistrad begin to fear an eternal night. With werewolves becoming even more vicious they turn to the warlocks of Innistrad to maintain the balance of night and day through the legendary artifact, The Celestus. Thus, the humans hiding out in the Kessig woods join together in hope for the Harvesttide festival, to celebrate the balancing of night and day on the plane.

The Harvesttide festival and celebrating humans are shown through various art pieces throughout the set.

Dawnhart Rejuvenator by Darren Tan

Celebrate the Harvest by Eelis Kyttanen

One interesting move in the art direction in this set is that it includes a pretty wide range of colors in some of its art pieces. Contrary to some of the darker tones seen across the earlier Innistrad sets (save for Avacyn Restored, of course) Innistrad: Midnight Hunt incorporates more lush reds, greens, and yellows to portray the Harvesttide festival. I appreciate the use of oranges especially, to show the autumnal season on Innistrad.

This isn't to say that every art piece from this set is this cheerful and colorful. While part of this set focuses on the festivities at hand, there are still multiple pieces dedicated to showcasing the drab, mysterious, and hollow world of Innistrad.

Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth by Jarel Threat

I really like how space is used in this piece, and the angle in which the character, Eloise, is framed. In the bottom right corner we see an unmoving hand, resting in a pool of blood. In the middle ground we see Eloise hunched over, inspecting a loose eyeball. In the background outside of the alley, we can see faint flickers of light coming from the town square, with some steeples barely showing in the misty moonlight. This piece clearly captures the foreboding and mysterious elements of Innistrad.

A new Innistrad set wouldn't be complete without its horror media inspiration either. Take this next piece, seemingly inspired by Children of the Corn, for example:

Fleshtaker by Kev Walker

The sewn eyes and mouth on the mask are what really send a shiver down my spine while looking at this piece.

Another key part of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt's art direction comes from its detailed and harrowing landscapes from across the plane. This basic Plains art captures the autumnal landscape of Innistrad with its cloudy skies and eerie pumpkin patch:

Plains by Andreas Rocha

While nowhere near as haunting, I also really enjoy this artwork for Deserted Beach:

Deserted Beach by Piotr Duta

Funny enough, this artwork reminds me a lot of a photograph of Cape May in the winter, check out the eerie similarities between the two:

I would be amiss in this article if I didn't include the artwork for Rotten Reunion, a clear parody of American Gothic by Grant Wood.

Rotten Reunion by Aaron Miller

American Gothic by Grant Wood

At its core, Innistrad has always been about the horrors. Werewolves, vampires, zombies, ghosts, and ghouls have been the cornerstone of the creatures of Innistrad, and Midnight Hunt does not disappoint with its showcase of various creatures of the night.

Old Stickfingers by Jehan Choo

Archive Haunt by Christine Balanescu

Seafaring Werewolf by Jake Murray

Fangblade Eviserator by Vincent Proce

While there isn't a lot of Lovecraftian-inspired imagery in the set (due to this set following the events of Eldritch Moon) Olag, Ludevic's Hubris is one pretty horrifying piece of art:

Olag, Ludevic's Hubris by Ryan Pancoast

While a frightening creature to be seen, apparently in the lore of Innistrad this grotesque creature created by the necro alchemist Ludevic is actually quite docile. While it's easy to focus on the centipede tail and octopus limbs, I almost missed the hairbrush in its right hand, gently brushing its long flowing hair. It's a tragic creature, similar to Frankenstein, that was created to invoke terror, but has no actual ill-intentions. I wonder if we'll see Olag make a return in a future set...

These are probably my two favorite picks for werewolf artwork in the set. I love the use of light and shadow in Seafaring Werewolf's art. While the bulk of Fangblade Eviserator's artwork focuses on the creature itself, I appreciate the contrast of the red glowing eyes to the snowy forest background.

Overall, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt captures the classic horror feel of Innistrad, while also adding autumnal and harvest elements to its art direction. Midnight Hunt is a fantastic example of how to build upon a pre-existing world and cleverly incorporate new elements into its art style without breaking away from pre-established tones.

Innistrad will always be one of my favorite sets and I can't wait to see where the art direction is taken for its next installment. While I hope it's not for a number of years, I would love to see Wizards return to the world of gothic horror with its autumnal, horror media, and Lovecraftian-inspired elements.

Path to the Festival by Derek Zabrocki

It's worth noting that in the fall of this year we'll journey to Duskmourn, the next horror-inspired Magic set taking place on a plane inspired by haunted houses. While it'll be incredibly difficult for a new horror set to top the style and tones of Innistrad, I'm looking forward to what horrors will be unleashed in the last Standard set of this year.

Thanks for reading and happy hauntings!

-Roman Fusco


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